Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Locked out of BIOS, LTSP won't work right

This summer AEA was the beneficiary of a generous donation of a dozen Dell P4 3.0 GHz towers. I quickly resolved to use these towers as servers for both the inside and outside labs, as well as the library and some classrooms where I anticipated heavy use. Of course at the time I believed that a gig of RAM with a P4 running at that speed would be more than enough for what I was trying to do. I now know better. In any case I quickly came across the minor annoyance of being locked out of the BIOS on about 4 of the donated towers. "Not a big deal," I told myself, I could easily install the LTSP on an unlocked machine and swap hard drives with a locked machine. I followed this procedure with all the affected machines and for over a month believed myself to be golden. My world came crashing down earlier this week after I got all the switches in from Newegg and tried to set up the servers in a middle school classroom to no avail.

The potential problems ran through my head like they always do when I get stumped (which happens embarrassingly often): bad ethernet cable? bad port? problems with the network? problems with the thin client? problems with the switch? problems with the server?

After some basic troubleshooting it quickly became clear that the source of my troubles lay with the server, specifically with the network card settings. For some reason the computer was confused as to which ethernet card was the incoming port from the wall and which was the outgoing to the switch. When I figured this out I grabbed another server from a nearby room and tried it out. Except I had the exact same problem! (I now realize that both of the servers I grabbed had their BIOS locked). Now I was really stumped.

It has taken me two days to finally understand what the true source of the problem is (at least I think I've figured it out). Evidently there is some setting that is changed on the BIOS when Edubuntu is installed that does not get set otherwise. I believe this to be the case because this afternoon I took an unlocked computer with a good hard drive and got it to work fine. Then I swapped the hard drive into a locked computer and ran into the same networking confusion. Swapped back the server worked fine.

So I guess my next step is to email the donor from this summer and hope that he knows what the BIOS password is. Otherwise I'm not sure what options I have. Maybe I can call Dell and figure out some way around the password. Or I could try and guess it. That's never worked for me before but who knows? Cheerio -joe

1 comment:

Stephen Walder said...

Hi Joe,
Thanks for your comments, much appreciated.

I may be able to help with your present predicament! It's possible to reset the bios password with just the help of a screwdriver:

1) remove side panels so you have access to the motherboard/

2) look for a battery on the motherboard or a jumper that says clear cmos.

3) either remove the battery and leave out for a few hours, or short the 'clear cmos' jumper - i.e switch from pins 1,2 to pins 2,3.

Hope this helps.

Look forward to reading more about your projects!